Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Putin’s War in Ukraine Costing Moscow Support in Ethnic Organizations Abroad It Thought It Controlled

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 21 – That many people have turned against the Putin regime and Russia more generally because of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. But that an increasing number of people and organizations abroad that Moscow thought were in its pocket is more striking because it highlights just how angry many are about what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

            The decision of Russian Orthodox churches in various countries is perhaps the clearest example of this anger. Faithful and clergy in many of them are breaking with a country whose religious organizations have long been close to or even under the tight control of Moscow officials, religious and civic.

            But something more profound appears to be going on in ethnic organizations that the Kremlin has long counted as its allies. Even among them, there is growing anger in the ranks about what Moscow is doing in Ukraine and there are now indications that groups many had viewed as Russian agents are ready to break away.

            The latest example of this trend concerns KAFFED, Turkey’s largest North Caucasian organization and one that some have criticized in the past for its unwillingness to challenge Moscow. But now there are signs that there is going to be a leadership change there that will make the group far less willing to go along.

            In the first instance, as Alexander Thatcher at the Central European University points out, this will make KAFFED a more powerful voice within Turkey, allowing it to ride the current “nationalist” wave there  (oc-media.org/features/turkeys-largest-north-caucasian-organisation-to-take-anti-kremlin-turn/).

            But the consequences for Moscow and ethnic groups whose diasporas in Turkey Russian wants to control are far more significant. On the one hand, Moscow will lose its leverage over these groups and to a certain extent over Turkey as a whole. And on the other, the diasporas whose work Moscow had sought to direct will strike an increasingly independent line.

            Given the power of the Internet, that will play back into the North Caucasus, the region which many of the diasporas in Turkey view as their homeland, and present Moscow with challenges there that it had assumed it had blocked by its control of groups like KAFFED abroad.

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